EU shamed as Biden speeds ahead in vaccine exports to Asia months after VDL’s criticism

Angela Merkel discusses the delivery of vaccine doses to Ukraine

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The US President pledged to donate 80 million vaccines worldwide in May, of which 75 percent would be shared through the global COVAX programme, and the remaining 25 percent would be donated to “help deal with surges around the world” when needed the most.

So far, most of the countries benefitting from Mr Biden’s generosity are in Southeast Asia, where the EU is lagging behind.

Back in May, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen criticised the US and the UK for their reluctance to export domestic stocks of Covid vaccines across the world.

Speaking at the International WDR Europaforum on Thursday, ahead of a crucial health meeting of G20 leaders in Rome, Ms von der Leyen took a swipe at the UK and the US over vaccine exports, arguing the EU is “the only region in the world that has managed to provide for its own population while giving others their fair share”.

Gloating about the EU’s vaccine strategy, she said: “Initially, there was a great deal of criticism of the EU. But what counts in the end is that, day-after-day, the European Union is reliably supplying vaccine for its 450 million citizens. And we can say we did this together – as a community.

“Using that as a benchmark, our European vaccination campaign is a success. Let me quote a few up-to-date figures. By the end of this week, around 260 million doses of vaccine will have been delivered in Europe.

“That is already more than enough to vaccinate half of all adults in Europe.”

She continued: “Things are going well. The objective is that, by the end of July, 70 percent of all adults in Europe will have been offered a jab. Let me put that figure into context – 70 percent by July is almost the same goal that the USA has currently set.

“This shows how much the pace of our vaccination campaigns has now converged. It is true that certain countries, such as the USA and the UK, were somewhat faster initially. But we have caught up since then.

“It is always worth looking at the big picture when making such comparisons. Other countries are keeping their entire vaccine production for themselves. Europe will reach its vaccination goals without cutting itself off.

“We are now the world’s biggest vaccine exporter.

“To date, we have exported more than 220 million doses to the rest of the world, about the same number of doses we have administered in Europe. Vaccines produced in the EU are being sent to close allies such as Canada and the UK.”

Whilst EU member states have already pledged 11 million doses for donation internationally, of which nine million will be sent through COVAX, EU assistance in Southeast Asia’s vaccination programmes have often fallen under the radar.

EU members states, working through their Team Europe brand, are among the largest financial donors to COVAX.

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But vaccines that arrive through the COVAX programme bear the UN logo and, unlike financial contributions which can easily be attributed to Team Europe, actual vaccines donated by individual member states cannot be traced.

As of July 10, the White House had donated the first tranche of the two million vaccines pledged to Vietnam.

The US also started shipping 3.2 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine to the Philippines on Thursday.

Haiti, Moldova, Costa Rica and other countries have also received doses from the United States in recent days.

The EU is also falling behind China. By late June, China had sold or donated around 120 million vaccines to Southeast Asia countries.

Cambodia has had to rely almost exclusively on Chinese-made vaccines.

Less than 10 percent of all Cambodia’s vaccines have come through the COVAX facility, according to local media reports.

Le Hong Hiep, a senior fellow at the Vietnam Studies Program at the ISEAS–Yusof Ishak institute in Singapore, told DW news that the EU “may prioritise Africa over Asia in its vaccine diplomacy”.

Much of Asia is grappling with spikes in COVID-19 cases amid new variants and vaccine supply constraints, and the World Bank on Thursday trimmed its economic growth forecasts for the East Asia and Pacific region, excluding China.

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